dessert

DIY Sprinkle Success & Birthday Cake…Attempt

If you have any interest in cakes (making, eating or both) and you haven’t picked up a copy of Layered by Tessa Huff yet go order it right now!  It’s a truly lovely book with great cake baking and decorating tips complete with some helpful step-by-step photos.  While I’ve only tried a couple cakes so far, I love it and can’t wait to try more of her recipes.  Go now and order a copy.  Go.

To me a birthday is not complete without a cake.  Another dessert can serve as a substitute if need be, but cake!  Birthdays were made for cake!  I decided to make a cake for my birthday this year, and the strawberry and confetti cake from Layered was the obvious choice.

I encountered some problems when I made this, and originally I was calling this cake a “fail” but it wasn’t.  After all was said and I done we stuck candles in it, sweet friends sang “Happy Birthday” and we all ate it and enjoyed it.  What it was was imperfect and a good learning lesson.  I am so glad I tried this cake, even though it wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be!

The first step for this cake was making your own sprinkles.  By hand.  Yes.  Did you even know this was possible?!  I didn’t.  It was time consuming, but not hard.  I would do it again for sure.

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There are few things that make the sprinkle process easier:

  • Make sure your frosting tip isn’t too small.  My hand was worn out after using a Wilton #3 tip.  #4 was way easier.  And if you used an even bigger one that should be fine, the size of the spinkle has more to do with how much you pipe.  A bigger tip means you pipe less, a smaller tip means you pipe more.  I don’t know if that makes sense now, but if you’ll know what I mean if you try it.

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  • If you can stand it, use up all of the sprinkle batter!  I was so tired and ran out of cookie sheets, so I stopped.  When I went to make the cake I didn’t have quite enough.  So, make it all, even if it means you’ll have a semi-permanent claw hand.
  • If you want bold colors, go a bit darker than you think you should.  I felt that mine dried slightly less bright than the original color.

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  • Have a small bowl of water handy to dip your finger in to press down any peaks that form on the sprinkles.  There is a sweet spot for the amount of water.  If you get too much water they’ll ooze and take a much longer time to dry.  Too little and they’ll stick to your finger.  You’ll learn pretty quickly what works best.
  • If you get tired of piping dots, pipe long strips, let them dry, and break them up to make jimmies!  I like the look of both the circles and jimmies together, anyway.

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DIY Sprinkles and Jimmies

From Layered

Ingredients

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • gel food coloring

Directions

  1. Fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment and pour the egg whites in to the bowl.
  2. Mix on medium low until foamy.
  3. Gradually add the powdered sugar and gradually increase the speed until you’ve added all the sugar and the speed it at medium high.
  4. Whisk until the mixture has smooth, stiff and glossy peaks.  Add in the vanilla and beat just to incorporate.
  5. Divide the sprinkle batter in to as many bowls as colors you plan to make.  Color with gel color, being sure to mix completely (a small spatula is good for this).
  6. Place each color of icing into a piping bag fitted with a round tip.
  7. Line cookie sheets or your counter top (as long as no one in your household likes to climb on to the counter or pull stuff off the counter) with parchment paper or non-stick silicon mats.  Pipe small circles onto the paper and use a damp fingertip to flatten down any pointy peaks that form.
  8. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat…
  9. Let dry for AT LEAST 2 hours (the longer the better) before using.

Now the rest of the cake had a lot of components, but I wasn’t worried about my competence in the kitchen to get it done and have it look beautiful.  I read through all of the recipes, and had a good plan on how to carry it all out flawlessly.  I had an entire blog post in mind to show off this cake!  Hello, humility.  We’ve met before…

I made everything the day before, 2 kinds of cake, strawberry puree, strawberry cream filling and an Italian meringue buttercream.  Once my kids were in bed for naps on the following day, I set up my tripod in the light filled corner of my kitchen and got to work.  I tinkered with the settings on my camera and had everything ready to hopefully create a lovely step-by-step assembly animated GIF.  Everyone would be so impressed.  Ugh.  Overconfidence can kill, guys.

As I started layering the cakes with the strawberry cream I realized my dreams of perfection were dashed.  The cream was oozing out the sides and on to the cake plate and the cake was beginning to tip over.  5 layers!  Of course it was falling over!  I am not a cake decorator.  I did not think through this whole process as well as I should have.  I also didn’t think to have my AC running to counteract the July heat and humidity we have here in Houston.  Taking pictures in the light filled corner didn’t help, either.  The cake was melting.  I had a, “Well, now what?!” moment, probably cursed a little bit, and then grabbed some skewers from a drawer in the kitchen and tried to straighten everything out.  From there I stuck it in the fridge and hoped for the best.

Please notice the second to the last image in this GIF.  I’ve already said this, but it reminds me of the cake in Sleeping Beauty.  Just about ready to topple over and be supported by a broomstick.

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I’d already whipped up the frosting and folded in the sprinkles (bad call), so I had to put that all back in the fridge.  I was not at all sure what back and forth from the fridge would do to an Italian meringue buttercream…but I didn’t really have another option.

Here it was it all of it’s glory, nice and white with pops of sprinkles.  This is when it should have gone on to the cake but instead was sent back to the fridge.

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Since we had dinner plans I had to wait until the next day to finish.  I pulled the cake out of the fridge.  The skewers had done the trick to straighten the cake out, and everything still held tight when I removed them.  I do wish I’d done that to start, although it wouldn’t  have helped the oozing strawberry cream…

Now the buttercream.  I let it sit for a while, then whipped it up again, no doubt damaging many of those sprinkles and creating a nice grey hue to the icing that should’ve been white.  The texture was also off.  Awesome.  I had an ok time getting the cake iced, even with the uneven layers.  Thankfully I’d saved some icing without sprinkles for decorating the edges, and some of those precious sprinkles for the final touch.


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Now, what really matters is how it tasted.  And it was delicious!  Especially the confetti layers.  My daughter turns 4 next month and I am seriously considering the confetti cake recipe for either a cake or cupcakes.

Thank you, Tessa, for getting me to try new things!  Can’t wait to attempt to conquer more of your lovely cakes ; )

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Baking Through Fika: Mini Victoria Sandwich Cakes

So far in Baking through Fika I’ve not done anything beyond the stated recipe.  But every other recipe has been pretty straightforward without much room for creative license.  This is a simple sponge cake with lots of ways to play!  So I decided to do a Victoria sandwich type cake, but in mini form.  I blame by recent binge of The Great British Baking Show during which I cried more than once.  It’s so wonderful.  Go watch it now.

These sweet little cakes were a great way to come back from the disappointment I experienced with my first attempt with this sponge cake.  See instagram post for those beauts…

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There is little doubt in my mind that my sponge cake was imperfect.  I don’t know what perfect sponge cake should be like, but having made it only twice I am certain that I do not have the skills to make it perfectly.  Should it have all those bubbles?  Should it have risen more?  Should I have baked it longer?  Or less?!  How’s the flavor?  I would love (and at the same time hate) to have Mary and Paul in my kitchen telling me what I’ve done wrong and how to fix it.  But this cake certainly tasted delicious, and for me that’s what matters most.

With sweet quick breads like banana and zucchini I like to grease and sugar my pans instead of greasing and flouring them.  I like the bit of sweet crunch from the sugar.  I decided I’d try that with my jelly roll pan for the sponge cake and it worked very well.  The cake rounds were easy to cut and remove from the pan with only a few bits that stuck.  But would Paul and Mary approve?!?

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This one pan of sponge gave me 35 1 1/2 inch diameter rounds.  If you don’t have a set of biscuit cutters, go get some.  They have many uses beyond biscuits!

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So what is a Victoria Sandwich?  It is simply two layers of sponge cake with raspberry jam in the middle dusted with powdered sugar.  It became popular in England during the reign of Queen Victoria, and I’ve read that it was her favorite tea time treat.  But I’ve also read that that is not in fact true.  So who knows.  Not sure when cream cake in to the mix, but I am happy it did.

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Since my sponge cake wasn’t very tall I made three layers instead of the two that I’ve seen in a Victoria sandwich.  I like the way they look with the three layers, but if you want to stretch the number of these you can make from one batch of cake, then two layers would be perfectly fine.

I used raspberry jam, but any kind would work.  I also played it safe with the amount of jam, just a thin layer.  It could’ve used a bit more, but I would rather them have too little jam than to have it oozing down the sides.

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After the layer of jam another cake layer is added and sweetened whipped cream is piped on.  I add a little powdered sugar, a little almond and a little vanilla extract to mine just because that’s how my mom does it.  But go unsweetened, or without either of the extracts of you’d like.

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Atop the cream goes one last sponge layer.

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Pardon all the pics!  I kind of loved taking pictures of these photogenic little bits of sweetness.

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Now dust generously with powdered sugar and serve to your lucky guests!

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If you plan to refrigerate these don’t do the powdered sugar.  Save that for right before serving.  It will soak into the cake and make it kind of gooey.  Still delicious, just not as lovely.

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I’m kind of hoping my daughter will want a tea party for her 4th birthday because I can see these being a terrific addition to the spread.

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Mini Victoria Sandwiches

From FIKA

Sponge Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 3/4 ounces melted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk (2 % is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

  1. Grease and sugar a jelly roll pan (rimmed baking sheet) and preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Beat eggs and sugar until pale, about 5 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Combine milk, melted butter and extracts in a small bowl.
  5. Add flour mixture to the egg and sugar mixture, stirring just to combine.  Add the milk mixture and fold together into an even batter.
  6. Spread into pan and bake for 10-15 minutes.  It will be light in color and when pressed lightly in the center should spring back.
  7. Let cool slightly before cutting in to rounds, then let rounds cool completely before moving on.

Assembling Sandwiches

Ingredients

  • rounds of sponge cake (since I had 35 total rounds I used 33 and ate the others!)
  • raspberry jam
  • sweetened whipped cream
  • powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Arrange 1/3 of the rounds on a cookies sheet.
  2. Spread each with a thin layer of jam.
  3. Top with another layer of cake.
  4. Pipe on a nice bit of sweetened cream.
  5. Top with another layer of cake.
  6. Dust with powdered sugar.
  7. Eat.

Baking Through Fika: Mazarin Tarts

Confession time: I ate all but two of these.  Myself.  In a week.  One night I ate 3 in one sitting.  These are evil.  And oh so delicious.

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Really there was no choice but for them to be tasty.  Butter pastry and sweet almond filling are two of the best things in the food world I think.  At least in the sweet food world, because there’s bacon and goat cheese to consider…

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I would like to make these again, and not simply with the intention of devouring them.  This was my first time using these tins and I don’t yet know the best way to prep them or to remove the final product.  In the Fika book they are perfect rounds, which is darling and seems easier to remove than a fluted tin.  I didn’t start out greasing them, but after I’d done a few I thought I’d better do it so that if the ungreased tins did stick I wouldn’t have ruined them all.  I think greasing helped, but it was still tricky to get them out fully intact.  That could also have something to do with the delicate-ness of the crust itself, though.

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The filling was more than I needed for the dozen tart shells I prepared.  I think that the crust was a bit thick on some of them, so I could’ve probably stretched the dough for the crusts a bit and made at least 3 more than the dozen I made.  The filling does cook up so don’t fill them too much or it will run up and over the crust.

To finish these off, you can either give them a nice dusting of powdered sugar or a simple powdered sugar glaze.  I love the look of both, but chose the glaze since it added another texture to the tart.

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This isn’t a dessert you make on a Wednesday just ’cause.  Or maybe it is!  I think they’d be a great addition to a dessert spread and perfect for a little tea or coffee party.  They keep very well in the fridge for a few days, just let them sit at room temp to warm up a bit.  Enjoy!  Hopefully this is all you will want to leave behind of these sweet tarts.

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Mazarin Tarts

From Fika

Ingredients

Tart Shells

  • 3 1/2 ounces of butter, cold and cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • pinch of salt

Filling

  • 1 3/4 ounces butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 ounces of blanched almonds, ground
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Glaze

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk

Directions

Tart Shells

  1. Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse until mixture looks like coarse sand.
  2. Add in the egg and mix until dough comes together.
  3. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
  4. Grease 12-16 tart tins.  If you have small tins you will use more, bigger tins you’ll need fewer.

Filling

  1. Whisk together all filling ingredients.

Assemble and Bake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Divide dough into as many pieces as you have tins.  Press a piece of dough into the tin and up the sides making it as even as possible.  Repeat for all the tins and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Fill the tarts about 2/3 full with the almond filling.  Err on the side of less filling since it could spill over the edge of the tart.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes, until tarts begin to turn golden.
  5. Cool tarts completely and remove from the tins before whisking together glaze ingredients and pouring a thin layer over the filling of the tart.  You can also dust them with powdered sugar or leave them plain.

 

Baking Through Fika: Apple and Cream Millefeuille

This is probably not a comparison that any pastry chef would ever wish upon their wares, but I am no pastry chef, so I have no problem with it.  This tasted like an apple toaster strudel!  The best apple toaster strudel you have ever had.  Ever in your life.  Ever.

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When you search images of millefeuille, French for “a thousand leaves”, what I have here is not exactly what you will see.  You probably know them as Napoleons, layers of puff pastry filled with all kinds of sweetness.  Most of these fancy pastries are beautiful and well trimmed with lovely, even layers.  I’m the gal who’s ok with making something taste like a toaster strudel, so my millefeuille is not well trimmed, and the layers are not even.  But it is so delicious, and really that is all that matters.

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One of the things about this cookbook that I don’t love is that sometimes there aren’t crystal clear instructions or it calls for an ingredient that requires you to make something extra for which there is no recipe and are no instructions.  In this recipe a cup of pastry cream or vanilla pudding is on the ingredient list.  I’ve made pastry cream before, but never in a small batch.  Thankfully I found this recipe for pastry cream that made just the perfect amount.  I did have a little scare when the fat separated out from the milk and I thought I was going to have to start over.  The internet saved me again with this quick fix for a broken pastry cream!

It also calls for whipping cream, but do not tell you to whip it.  If I hadn’t done much baking I would not have thought to whip it.  Maybe the authors of this book are just testing the baking knowledge of its readers, which I find to be tricky.  Tricky Swedes.

The recipe says to use 2/3 cup of apple sauce.  I used 3-4 tablespoons, just enough to cover the bottom layer of pastry.  Anymore and I was afraid it was going to just spill over the edges.

Red currant jam is called for…I used apple jelly.

Other than all that, this is a fairly straightforward recipe 😉  Thankfully it uses store-bought puff pastry and is easy to assemble.

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The pastry cream can be made a day or two in advance, but don’t assemble this much more than a couple hours before you plan to serve it.  It is best enjoyed fresh.

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Apple and Cream Millefeuille

Ingredients

Millefeuille

  • 1 sleeve of frozen puff pastry
  • 1 cup pastry cream (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream whipped to soft peaks
  • 3-4 tablespoons apple sauce
  • 3-4 teaspoons apple jelly
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon milk or water
  • a few drops almond or vanilla extract

Pastry Cream

  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Pastry Cream

  1. In a small saucepan warm the cream over medium-low heat until tiny bubbles appear around the edge of the pan, but do not boil.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add in the egg yolks, and whisk together.
  3. Slowly pour the warm cream into the egg yolk mixture, a tablespoon or so at a time. Continue to whisk as you pour.
  4. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat. Whisk constantly while it comes to a simmer. Once simmering, it will begin to thicken. Once large bubbles pop on the surface, continue to cook for a few more seconds while whisking, then remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla.
  5. Scrape the pastry cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface, then chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

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  1. Thaw the puff pastry according to the package directions and pre-heat the oven to 425°F.  Unfold the sheet and use a paring knife or pizza cutter to slice into 3 equal pieces (most sheets are already folded into thirds, so this should be easy.  Place the pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet and prick all over the a fork.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden.  Let cool, then trim to neaten the edges…or not 🙂
  2. Fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream.
  3. Place one layer of pastry on a serving platter.  Spread applesauce evenly into this layer.
  4. Place another layer of pastry on top and spread evenly with the pastry cream.  You could also put the cream into a pastry bag and pipe it nicely.
  5. Place the last layer is pastry on top upside down so that you have a nice flat top layer.
  6. Heat the apple jelly in the microwave until easily spreadable, then spread on the top of the pastry.
  7. Whisk together the powdered sugar, milk/water and extract until smooth.  Spread over the jelly and let set.  Slice and serve or refrigerate for an hour or two.

 

Pie for Pi Day: Blueberry Cream Cheese Streusel Mini Pies

I’m jumping on the Pi day bandwagon!  And why not?  Any excuse to make pie.  And I also happen to love dates that have some numerical-mathematical significance.  3-14-15 and 3.1415!  It’s amazing!  And tasty.

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And oh my goodness.  These sweet little pies are magical.  The best way I can describe them is to compare them to those Duncan Hines boxed mix blueberry muffins with the can of blueberries and the streusel topping.  Making those is one of earliest memories I have of baking something on my own.  If you haven’t ever had them before you are missing something special.

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These came into being so perfectly.  I had a frozen pie crust (this recipe from Smitten Kitchen), a can of blueberry pie filling (don’t judge), a half package of cream cheese and some leftover frozen streusel from kolaches (this recipe).  All of that came together to make something so incredible that I will be making these again without changing a thing.

Aside from making the pie crust there isn’t much work to do.

Prepare the crusts.

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Spread with cream cheese.

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Fill.

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Top.

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Bake.

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You could make this in a regular pie plate, but these mini pie pans are a generous individual size and I really liked the way the pies baked in them.  After the pies cooled they were very easily removed from the pans.  They seem pricey, but are worth it.  They’d be great for pot pies, too.

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Go enjoy Pi day and have a great weekend!

Blueberry Cream Cheese Streusel Mini Pies

Ingredients

  • 1 unbaked pie crust for a 9-inch pie
  • 5 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 can blueberry pie filling

For Streusel

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter, chilled

Directions

  1. Make streusel: Use a pastry blender to combine sugar, flour and butter.  Chill.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  3. Divide the pie crust into 4 pieces, roll each piece out into a circle that fits into the pan.  Trim the edges.  Freeze for 20 minutes.
  4. Beat cream cheese and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar together until well combined.  Spread cream cheese mixture into the bottom of each pie.
  5. Top with blueberry filling.
  6. Top with streusel.
  7. Place pies on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the crusts and tops are golden brown.  If they brown too quickly top with a sheet of foil.
  8. Let cool and then serve warm or room temp with vanilla ice cream.

 

 

Rosemary and Brown Butter Pecan Blondies

Did anyone else have the post-Thanksgiving blues?  I got home after a week with family and had a rough time adjusting back to normal life.  I wanted to stay in my pajamas and in bed all day.  I scoured the freezer for meals, bought groceries to make pot pies but when it came time to make them I just didn’t want to do it so we ordered pizza, and one night I ate salad straight from the plastic container it came in instead of using a plate.  Keeping it classy, y’all.  I am back from my hiatus and have even cooked a couple of proper meals this week.  Hopefully my post-Christmas blues don’t find me in this same predicament…

Christmas is fast approaching and while my shopping is mostly completed and our tree and lights are up I feel like I have a lot of cooking still to do.  I’m excited to make some of the nostalgic cookies that bring me right back to my childhood, but I always like to try my hand at something new.  So along with some reliable and time-tested recipes, I’ll also share some new ones that would be perfect for the holiday season.

I have a thing for rosemary.  An herb that is lovely in savory dishes but really gets along well with sweet flavors, rosemary is also incredibly easy to grow.  In fact, the rosemary plant I thought was dead and moved to the side yard to die a slow death is doing better than the one I have been caring for on the back porch.  That should give you an idea of my gardening skills.  The blog is already full of sweets that feature rosemary, but that isn’t stopping me from sharing another one with you!

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These blondies were a big hit with my husband, who prefers his sweets more on the savory side.  My 4-year-old was not a fan.  My 2-year old ate them up happily, a girl after my own heart.  It has butter and sugar in it?  We are in.

Brown butter and dark brown sugar make these blondies quite rich.  Add pecans and rosemary to the mix and the flavors are all warm and rich.  The cranberries are a welcomed sweet-tart addition that make these blondies more balanced and super delicious.

I went heavy on the salt and rosemary, but realize that not everyone has my taste buds.  Opt for less salt and less rosemary if you’re skeptical.  Then if you think it needs more you can adjust the next time.  I usually say it’s better to have too much than not enough, but that’s not the case with those ingredients.

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 Rosemary and Brown Butter Pecan Blondies

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons chopped, fresh rosemary
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Directions

  1. Brown butter: Place butter in a small saucepan and heat over low-medium heat until butter begins to sizzle and spit.  Reduce heat to low, watch closely and swirl the pan occasionally just until butter smells nutty.  Pour into a bowl and let cool slightly.
  2. Preheat oven to 325°F and butter a 9×13 pan.
  3. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and rosemary together in a small bowl.
  4. Beat cooled butter and brown sugar together.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.
  5. Mix in flour mixture and then the pecans and cranberries.
  6. Spread batter into the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  7. Cool before cutting and serving.

Perfect Chocolate Cake & Frosting

As with much of my spur of the moment baking, this was the result of perusing Pinterest right after my kids went down for naps.  I saw this amazing looking chocolate cake and had to have it.  Now.

Perfect Chocolate Cake | Hottie Biscotti

Perfect Chocolate Cake | Hottie Biscotti

As luck would have it I had all the ingredients (and you probably do, too!) which makes this a terrific cake to make at the last minute.  I decided to make it around 2 in the afternoon and it was cooled and frosted and ready to consume by 5.  Both the cake and the frosting come together so quickly.  Making this cake was a great use of nap time.  It was also a great way to take my mind off of the fact that my due date was going to come and go without meeting our new babe!  If only chocolate cake induced labor…

Perfect Chocolate Cake | Hottie Biscotti

I’ve had this cake before and remember asking who made it and if I could get the recipe.  For some reason I was surprised to find out it was a Hershey’s recipe.  I shouldn’t have been, I guess.  The best oatmeal cookie recipe is found on the top of the Quaker oats container, after all!  I didn’t use Hershey’s cocoa, though.  I had just enough Guittard cocoa left, so that is what I used.  The cake is moist and chocolatey and comforting, as chocolate cake should be.  The frosting is sweet and rich yet light and not dense.  I added a layer of crushed Oreos in between the layers of cake and also pressed some into the sides of the frosted cake and sprinkled some on top.  It adds some nice texture both in appearance and in your mouth, but it also helps to disguise a sloppy frosting job…which mine definitely was.

Perfect Chocolate Cake | Hottie Biscotti

You can make this in 9-inch cake pans, like I did, or in a 9×13 pan, 3 8-inch pans, a bundt pan, or you can make cupcakes.  I can easily see this becoming my new go-to chocolate cake recipe.

ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

Perfect Chocolate Cake | Hottie Biscotti

The next time I post I hope it’s to announce the birth of our baby, but I might just find myself doing some more baking if this baby decides he or she is just not ready!  Happy weekend!Perfect Chocolate Cake | Hottie Biscotti

Perfect Chocolate Cake

From Hershey’s

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: Crushed Oreos for topping (about a sleeve and a half)

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans.  Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl, mix together sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add in oil, milk, eggs and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.
  5. Add in the boiling water and mix to combine.  The batter will be very thin, and that’s ok!
  6. Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly, and bake for 30-35 minutes.  A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached.
  7. Let cool in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes, then turn out onto the racks to let cool completely before frosting.

Frosting

  1. Measure cocoa into a medium sized bowl.  Melt butter and pour into the cocoa and whisk to combine.
  2. Using a mixer, beat in powdered sugar and milk alternately in 5 batches (sugar, milk, sugar, milk, sugar).  Add in more sugar if you want the frosting to be a little thicker.  Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Frost the cake, layering some of the Oreos in between the layers and press some onto the edges.  Serve immediately or let chill in the fridge for an hour if your house is especially warm (like mine was!).

 

Coconut Milk and Pineapple Popsicles

I might have a little bit of an obsession with coconut and pineapple at the moment.  These ice cream sundaes, the coconut milk and honey lotion I bought yesterday and these popsicles make me wonder if I have a problem.  Maybe it’s the thought of summer and I’m just trying to mentally transport myself somewhere sunny and tropical.  And maybe it’s a pregnancy craving thing.  Either way, I’m ok with it.  And I’m totally ok with these pina colada-like popsicles.  They’re refreshing, the ingredient list is short and they take almost no time to make!  If you haven’t tried making your own popsicles (like me up until I made these) you should try it!

Coconut Milk and Pineapple Popsicles | Hottie Biscotti

All you need for these is a can of coconut milk, a small can of crushed pineapple, a little vanilla and a little sugar.  Mix it up, pour the mixture into popsicle molds and pop them into the freezer until they’re frozen solid.  That’s all there is to it!  Then you can sit outside and eat one of these and pretend you’re at the beach somewhere.  Maybe put on some island music, wear a big floppy hat and put your feet in your kid’s sandbox for added effect.

Coconut Milk and Pineapple Popsicles | Hottie Biscotti

Betsy couldn’t resist trying these, and I was surprised how much she liked it.  She enjoyed her bite so much that I had to go get myself another one because there was no way I was going to pry it from her hands.

Coconut Milk and Pineapple Popsicles | Hottie Biscotti

I found these popsicle molds at World Market.  I like that they have the built in drip catchers, it’s perfect for my kids who get all kinds of bothered when their hands start to get messy.  And really it’s a good thing for adults, too!  To unmold them after a full 24 hours in the freezer I had to run them under warm water and occasionally wiggle the sticks until they were ready to come loose.  Overall I was pleased with the $5 purchase.

Coconut Milk and Pineapple Popsicles | Hottie Biscotti

The texture of these popsicles is creamy thanks to the luscious coconut milk, but with just enough chew from the pineapple to make them interesting.  I found one tablespoon of sugar to be enough sweetness, but if you like things sweeter you could add another tablespoon.  These are also really satisfying because of the coconut milk.  It’s almost like eating ice cream.  Do you have a favorite at-home popsicle recipe?  I’d love to hear about it!

Coconut Milk and Pineapple Popsicles

Makes 6 pops

Ingredients

  • 1 can of full fat coconut milk
  • 1 small can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Pour mixture into the popsicle molds.
  3. Freeze for at least 8 hours or until frozen solid.
  4. Unmold by letting popsicles warm up on the counter, or by running molds under warm water (without letting water get into the tops of the mold) wiggling sticks occasionally to see if they’ve thawed enough to remove easily.
  5. Eat and enjoy.

Simple Sundae: Brown Sugared Pineapple with Toasted Coconut and Almonds

I love ice cream.  And I eat it a lot.  I have some pretty much every night of the week.  And I usually have 2 flavors in my freezer at all times.  I’m not even lying.  Sometimes I keep it really simple, especially if I have a flavor that already has a lot of goodies in it.  When I eat vanilla ice cream, though, I just have to mix something in, chocolate chips, crumbled cookies or chopped up candy like Reese’s or Snickers.

With summer weather upon us I can’t think of anything better than trying out some new ice cream toppings!  This one has pineapple cooked in warm brown sugar sauce and is topped off with toasted coconut and almonds.  It’s real good and real easy,

Brown Sugared Pineapple Sundae with Coconut and Almonds | Hottie Biscotti

This week I found myself with an incredibly delicious container of fresh pineapple after using one as a pregnancy photo prop.  It’s great for snacking and for adding to yogurt, but I wanted to try something a little different with it.  A while back a friend made dessert for a dinner party by just cooking up some fresh pineapple in butter and brown sugar and serving it on top of ice cream.  I used the same method but added some toasted coconut and almonds to make a delicious, quick and simple ice cream sundae.

I used vanilla ice cream in this sundae, but coconut would be delicious and add to the tropical-ness of the dessert.  To toast the coconut and almonds, simply spread them out on a cookie sheet and pop them in a 350°F oven for a few minutes, until everything just begins to brown.  The coconut will brown quicker, so you can do them on separate cookie sheets, or remove the coconut from the cookie sheet and continue to toast the almonds.  But do make sure to have them toasted!  The flavor is better and so is the texture in the sundae.

Brown Sugared Pineapple Sundae with Coconut and Almonds | Hottie Biscotti

Do you have any favorite toppings for your ice cream?  I can always use some new ideas!

Brown Sugared Pineapple, Toasted Coconut and Almond Sundaes

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the Pineapple

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 heaping cup fresh pineapple, cut into chunks

For the Sundaes

  • vanilla ice cream
  • toasted coconut chips or unsweetened coconut
  • toasted sliced almonds

Directions

Pineapple

  1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the butter.  Allow it to melt almost completely.
  2. Add in the brown sugar and increase the heat to medium high.  Stir the sugar and butter together until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Add in the pineapple and stir to coat each piece of pineapple.  Let it cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar mixture has thickened a bit and the pineapple has warmed through.  Remove from the heat.

Sundaes

  1. Scoop ice cream into 4 small bowls.
  2. Divide the pineapple and sauce evenly among the bowls.
  3. Sprinkle coconut and almonds on top and serve.

 

 

Caramel Pot de Creme

I know.  I just posted a pot de creme recipe.  But this one is different.  And more simple.  And just as delicious.   I just couldn’t help but share this one with you as well.

caramelpotdecreme3

This pot de creme is called “butterscotch” on Epicurious, where I found this recipe, but it’s more caramel in flavor in my opinion.  Which is fine by me.  It’s less rich than the other pot de creme, making it much easier to enjoy.  It’s delicious and creamy and a snap to prepare.  It’s a great make ahead dessert, and one that would be wonderful for Valentine’s Day for those of you who love sweets but aren’t in to chocolate.

In the original recipe are two sugars, Muscovado and Demerara, that I’ve heard of but couldn’t find at the grocery store, so I simply used light and dark brown sugar.  If you can find the others, go right ahead and use them, but the combination of sugars I used was perfect (and probably less expensive).

I did not have the same problem with these pots de creme as I had with the last ones.  Each pot de creme was smooth and creamy on top.  You do still bake them in a water bath, but there is no need to cover them.  Which is nice for absent minded people like me who tend to forget stuff like that.

caramelpotdecreme

Top these with sweetened whipped cream, grated chocolate, berries or enjoy them on their own.  Enjoy!

Caramel Pot de Creme

From Epicurious

Makes 6 4-ounce custards

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • sweetened whipped cream, berries, grated chocolate for topping

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Bring a teapot of water to a simmer to use for the water bath.
  3. Combine dark brown sugar, cream and salt in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar completely.  Do not let the mixture boil.  Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof bowl.
  4. In another saucepan, bring water and light brown sugar to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Continue cooking until the mixture begins to brown and bubble, stirring constantly.  This should take about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and slowly pour caramel into the cream mixture, whisking to combine.  Mixture may bubble and steam.
  5. In a large bowl whisk egg yolks and vanilla, then add hot cream mixture in small amounts, whisking constantly to avoid scrambling the egg yolks.  One you’ve added 1/3 of the mixture, stream in the rest and whisk well.
  6. Pour custard through a sieve (to remove any cooked egg lumps) into the bowl that originally contained the cream.
  7. Set 6 ramekins in baking dish then divide custard evenly among them.  Place in the oven, then fill pan with hot water, about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Try to keep water from splashing into the custards.
  8. Bake, uncovered for 40-45 minutes, until custards are set but centers are still wobbly.
  9. Remove ramekins to a cooling rack and cool slightly.  You can enjoy these at room temperature, or refrigerate them for a few hours.
  10. Top with whipped cream, chocolate and/or berries.